When Spinner® Bikes Meet Road Bikes
By Linda Freeman, Star 3 Certified Spinning® Instructor
“It’s a fixed rate flywheel,” we tell our new students, “and you can’t coast.” We can do our best to replicate bike fit and riding position, we can practice pedal stroke technique and focus on relaxed upper body, we can monitor heart rate and breathe efficiently, but we can’t coast.
Does that matter? Not really. In Spinning® class we make every second count.
As a means to general fitness, cross training for other sports or continuing cycling momentum in the off-season, Spinning® training is unparalleled. When class participants share the bond of riding outdoors together, they bring new meaning to their indoor cycling experience. Knowing this, an instructor can capitalize on the relationship between the two venues and use what quickly becomes common ground to all levels and abilities.
Perhaps the most obvious way to use the outdoor-indoor training, is to develop class profiles of familiar routes complete with envisioned flat roads, hills, headwinds and road conditions.
Endurance rides might bring to the participant images of way-marks or vistas, or remind them of the way they felt ¾ the way through their ride.
Interval Energy Zone classes might mean more to the student who has climbed a series of short but steep hills or tried to play catch up with his or her friends.
A Strength ride takes on far more meaning when the rider has labored up a nearby hill or gap and understands the value of training to meet the challenge of increasing resistance.
Race Day is an in-your-face wake-up call to prepare well for local time trials during cycling season. These events are often offered for novices as well as experienced cyclists and provide an achievable goal for anyone who has mindfully powered through a Spinning® class RDEZ.
Training in the Recovery Energy Zone is a much-needed reminder that recovery is perhaps the most important and under-appreciated component of training. It is the day your outdoor ride happens unplugged, minus mileage or time goals and with no power meter, heart rate monitor or even wrist watch.
Energy Zones provide the big picture, but smaller components are equally valuable. For example, who has not cringed at the thought of getting new cleats stuck in the pedals when coming to a stop, or in an emergency? Practicing on Spinner® bikes until clicking in and out is intuitive often solves this problem. Spinning® class is also the time to test those new bike shorts or to become best buddies with your heart rate monitor (sometimes we need to remind our students to go ahead and wear the HR monitors outdoors too).
Pedal stroke training never ends. Cyclists continue to hone their skills through hours and miles and even years of riding. As experience adds up and one’s fitness level increases, so will pedal stroke changes to coincide with new strength parameters and terrain challenges. Once again, practiced in the studio setting, pedal stroke work is pure, devoid of the distractions of the road.
I remember well that one summer I was given the task to climb and climb but to do so with a relaxed upper body. At first I thought this was an impossible and improbable task. However, practiced first in the studio on my Spinner® bike, monitoring cadence and resistance, relating them to an imagined hill and shifting gears, I was able to finally carry those skills to the road. Not to say that I’m a great climber, but I do live in Vermont and any hill is an achievement!
Perhaps the ultimate value of training in the studio on our Spinner® bikes is the work that is done in the Endurance Energy Zone. Riding in a controlled environment in which we can manipulate all variables is something that simply does not happen outdoors. There are no speeding pick up trucks, no potholes and no cross winds. A momentary lapse in concentration does not invite trouble. It is a time to dedicate exclusively to form, technique, breathing, intensity and the subsequent measurement of that intensity. It is the perfect world in which we can ride and train and experience what is best in Spinning® training and cycling.
Please note that in no way are these thoughts meant to exclude the Spinning® class participant who does not ride outdoors. Chances are, however, that as your outdoor riders become enthusiastic about the relationship between a Spinner® bike and a road bike, so, too, will others enjoy their mental journey outside the studio door. Who knows, someday they too might join you on the road.